School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

Dear SSW Students,

VCU has created the One VCU: Responsible Together plan that outlines a phased approach to reopening campus that prioritizes student, faculty, and staff safety. This update provides information about how these guidelines and procedures will affect students in our B.S.W., M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs.

Portrait of Dean Beth Angell, smiling
Dean Beth Angell

Student Responsibilities. As described in VCU’s plan, students will be required to complete the Return to Campus Training and sign an attestation that acknowledges the requirements and consequences and confirms willingness to comply with safety protocols. These protocols will include daily health monitoring, reporting any symptoms, wearing masks in common spaces, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting spaces. Watch for emails from the University prompting you to complete the training and review the safety protocols carefully.

Fall Schedule. As indicated in the One VCU Plan, the fall semester calendar dates run from Aug. 17 to Nov. 24, with final exams being conducted remotely after the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 30-Dec. 4). For SSW students engaging in field education courses, students will remain in their field placements until Dec. 7.

Course Instruction. Due to physical distancing requirements, VCU has set guidelines on the maximum number of occupants for various classrooms around the University, and has stipulated that classes with 50 or more students must be taught in a fully remote format. Because of the occupancy limits of classrooms, the SSW has made the following adaptations to how courses in each program will be delivered for fall semester.

  • B.S.W. Students. All fall classes in the B.S.W. program will be held in hybrid format, meaning a combination of in-person and online activities. The amount of time you will spend in each modality will vary course to course, and your course instructors will communicate with you individually about what you can expect. Accommodations will be made for students who do not wish to meet in person.
  • M.S.W. On Campus Program Format Students. All fall classes will be held in remote format, meaning a combination of synchronous meetings via Zoom during scheduled class time and independent online learning throughout the week. At this stage, you should hold the weekly assigned class time on your schedule. That said, your instructors are working to design and plan the classes carefully to minimize “Zoom fatigue” on any given day, and you will receive more detailed information from your instructor about the week-to-week plan for that particular course.
  • M.S.W. Online Program Format Students. Aside from the changes to fall schedule dates noted above, classes in this program will proceed as normal. All fall and spring classes will be held in online format, meaning a combination of asynchronous learning activities with a limited number of synchronous class sessions using Zoom. 
  • Ph.D. Program Students. Students in the Ph.D. program will receive specific information about arrangements for courses, graduate research assistantships, and building access from the Ph.D. Program Director via email.

Field Education. M.S.W. and B.S.W. students whose curriculum plan includes field courses this fall will receive an agency-based field placement. Some placements will be fully onsite, some will involve working remotely, and some will be a combination. Field agencies will determine in what mode students will be engaged with the work of the agency and inform students of this prior to the start of the fall semester. Start dates for field will vary by stage of program, as follows:

  • B.S.W. Senior students will begin field placement on Aug. 17.
  • M.S.W. Specialization students will begin field placement on Aug. 17.
  • M.S.W. Generalist students will begin field placement on Sept. 8. From Aug. 17 until Sept. 4, they will engage in pre-field orientation activities in an online format.

We recognize that while many of you are ready to begin placements this fall, some students may feel concerned about beginning placement due to personal and health circumstances and would prefer to delay field until later in the program. For this reason, we ask that each student who is scheduled to enter field placement in fall semester to review and complete this acknowledgment letter (PDF) by July 15. The letter asks you to review the expectations you must agree to follow to protect health and safety and indicate your acknowledgement of the risks and responsibilities associated with entering a field placement. Instructions and links that direct you how to electronically sign and upload the document are provided in the letter.

This FAQ document may answer additional questions about field education for the fall semester.

Office of Student Success. Your assigned Student Success Advisor is available to schedule meetings (using this link) with students via Zoom and over the phone. Due to room occupancy restrictions needed for physical distancing, in-person meetings will not occur during the fall semester. You may also find the contact information for your Student Success Advisor here.

Technology Supports Available to Students. The university will have a limited number of laptops available for students to check out. Please email or call 804-828-2227 to request a loaner laptop. Tech for Troops also provides free laptops to veterans who are returning to school. If you need additional technology support, see VCU’s Keep on Learning website. Information on this website will continue to be updated as more options become available. 

Additionally, the university will be offering computer access scholarships. For more information, see VCU’s Responsible Together page for students. Students can also apply for VCU Student Relief funds for money spent on replacing or purchasing a personal computer. 

In closing, we look forward to welcoming you back for fall semester and aim to provide you with a high quality learning experience while also taking the necessary steps to keep you and our entire community safe. Public health guidance changes frequently, so we anticipate that planning for the academic year will need to evolve in line with that guidance. Watch your emails for an invitation to attend several town hall meetings with program directors and OSS advisors during July and August, where you are encouraged to bring questions and concerns.

With best wishes,

Beth Angell's signature

Beth Angell
Dean and Professor

Categories Education, From the dean, Students
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